Prior to this past weekend we had been to the school twice - once for an Open House visit and another time for Accepted Students Day. Both times the weather was less than desirable so I was definitely looking forward to seeing the school in a "better light". We were actually told that the weather was the best it has ever been for Orientation Weekend so I'm going to take that as a positive sign for Amanda!
The day started out very early as we left home around 6:45 to meet up with my friend Andrew at his home in Plainfield. Andrew had graciously offered not only the use of his truck but also himself for the move and I can't begin to tell you how grateful for that I am! The agenda for the morning called for Amanda to ride up with Andrew while I took Jamie up to Shirley, Massachusetts where she was going to spend the weekend with her cousins. After depositing Jamie in Shirley, I would then meet up with Andrew and Amanda in Beverly. Had it not been for the road construction in Worcester that someone thought was a good idea on a Saturday morning we may have actually all arrived in Beverly right about the same time but by the time I got there, Andrew had his truck unloaded and was just waiting for me so that he could haul up Amanda's stuff that was in my car.
This is Amanda's new home away from home until next May and as it happens, her room is on the third floor. See those open windows in the dormer over to the left? That would be her room which you access via four flights of stairs. Four. Flights. Of. Stairs. Thank God and all his angels (as well as his wife!) for Andrew as I am sure I would have been about near ready to die by the time Amanda and I got all her stuff up to her room!
When I pulled in to the driveway, the first thing Andrew told me was that everyone thought that he was Amanda's Dad which I guess was an honest mistake being that it seemed every other kid in the house had a complete set of parents and even a sibling or two. He then told me that Amanda was a bundle of nerves which really didn't surprise me at all; she's very much an introvert in spite of her hair and the way she dresses. Heck, the kid can't even go up to the counter at McDonald's without getting all nervous! Anyway, I'm really hoping that living in a house with seven other girls will help her overcome some of that and that she'll find some new confidence in herself.
The pictures above are some of the inside of the house and another shot of the front of the house. They've got a big living room complete with a working fireplace, a formal dining room in addition to the dining nook that holds a second refrigerator, and a good-size kitchen. On the third floor are two big bedrooms housing two freshmen each and then the two sophomores and two seniors who also live in the house occupy rooms on the second floor. I didn't get a chance to take any pictures of Amanda's room as it was in a bit of disarray between she and her roommate but she's promised to send me some via cell at some point in time.
After Amanda thanked Andrew and gave him a hug goody-bye she started to put away some of her belongings while I went over to the local Stop & Shop to get her a few more groceries including the perishables that I wasn't about to bring up in the car. Each girl gets their own space in a pantry and also their own space in one or the other of the refrigerators. I get the feeling that once they all get to know each other, there will be some sharing going on but until then they each needed their own food to get them at least through the first few days.
At 12:00 students and parents and other assorted family members and friends walked over to the Beverly Common, which is directly across from the very nice Beverly Library (pictured above) to have lunch. If you face the library, Amanda's house is just across the street from it on the right so it's a short walk over to the Common and the Hardie Building, which is the main building for the college. I get the feeling that the students make good use of the Common and it was the ideal spot for everyone to gather for lunch.
Even though she doesn't look too nervous in this picture, I could tell that Amanda was most definitely not herself as she only picked at her ham & cheese wrap and was very, very quiet. I think that the whole reality of going to college was finally starting to sink in but fortunately, she had met a lot of her other housemates and they all seemed like girls cut from the same cloth as herself. Well, except for her roommate, that is. Not to stereotype people but Amanda's roommate seemed more like the type that would be attending a fancy fine arts college in Paris or New York rather than at a school where kids dyed their hair strange colors, wore whatever they were comfortable in no matter how mish-mashed it was, and were obviously very free spirits.
Her roommate seemed very ill at ease and uptight and even blew off part of her Orientation later in the afternoon so that she could take a nap. Amanda told me on Sunday that the other girls in the house were baking a cake for her roommate as it was her birthday and she was having some trouble adjusting as she had been home-schooled and this was her first foray out into education outside of the home. That would certainly explain a lot and I sure hope she's able to adjust and make a go of it. She and Amanda are about as different as night and day but in the long run, that may be a very good thing - for both of them.
Meanwhile though, back over on the Common, Amanda had come back to life a little bit and found a kindred soul in Kirstie - another of her housemates who, as luck would have it, liked some of the very same bands Amanda did. I was glad to see that she had found someone to connect with as she seemed to visibly unwind at least a little bit. I know that one of her biggest worries was that no one at the college was going to like her and that she wouldn't fit in but heck, it's an art college and she's an artist - of course she'd fit in! Of course, we as parents can assure our kids of that until we're blue in the face but until they find it out for themselves, they're never going to believe it.
Following lunch, the students were shepherded off to get their house keys and attend to a few other bits of formality while we parents and other family members took a walk down to the First Baptist Church for our orientation session. The theme was apparently "Letting Go" and as school administrators talked about how we needed to give our kids the time and room to grow I found myself actually getting a little teary-eyed and hoped that wasn't going to be a problem when it came time to say good-bye to Amanda. I had this notion that if I were to stay strong then so would she. Besides, it wasn't the first time I'd bid any of my kids good-bye like it was for some of the other parents surrounding me and I figured that leaving Amanda at college was going to be loads easier than putting her on a plane to her father's house! I'd had plenty of practice saying good-bye to my kids in airports so this was going to be a cakewalk as far as I was concerned!
Shortly after 2:00, we reunited with our kids back on the Common where the College President (Stephen D. Immerman, Ed.D. formerly of M.I.T.!) gave a short speech welcoming the Class of 2014. As I listened, I looked around at the kids that Amanda would be going to college with and thought that yep, she had chosen wisely and this was most definitely the right place for her! There are only about 116 kids in the Freshmen Class and combined with the rest of the students, the overall size is still less than that of her graduating high school class. Add on the fact that the kids surrounding me looked like the types that weren't going to be judgmental towards other free spirits and I felt pretty confident that Amanda was going to be just fine. That right there was going to make it easier to say good-bye and drive out of Beverly by myself.
As the President wrapped up his speech, I knew it was going to be time for me to give my oldest daughter a hug good-bye and wish her well. As we walked back over to her house, the mother of another student named Claire that Amanda had befriended told Amanda "I just love your Mum's shirt" in a very nice British accent (seems that there are more British Claire's then just the cheeky red-head across the pond that I know!) She was referring to the Doctor Who shirt that I had worn for the occasion which Amanda had to tell her was really hers and not mine. Considering I was wearing the shirt home and it wasn't staying at college, I'm going to claim it as mine until such time as it's not!
Still, it helped put a lighter spin on the moment and after giving Amanda several very long hugs and telling her to make my former retirement fund proud, I waved good-bye and shouted out "Allons-y Amanda!" For those who are not Doctor Who fans, "Allons-y" was a favorite expression of the Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant and it translates from French to "Let's Go!" I have to admit that it made leaving at least a little bit easier without any tears at all so thank you Doctor Who from the bottom of this mother's heart!
Finally, because I take way too many pictures, here are some of Montserrat and the surrounding bits of Beverly that are nearby. My only complaint with Flickr slideshows is that they don't show the captions but I guess if you really want to know what a particular picture is, you can click over to the set itself and check the pictures out there. If not, let's just suffice it to say that it's a nice place in Massachusetts with some interesting buildings!
Oh, and as of this writing, I'm going to guess that Amanda is doing just fine as I've barely heard from her except for two short calls and a couple of text messages. We were told at Parent Orientation that's a good thing but I gotta admit, it's going to take some getting used to - in a good way of course!